Brian Branch gets some acknowledgement as Lions' most underappreciated player

Practically correcting a mistake by his primary outlet, Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson has acknowledged Brian Branch as an under the radar player.

If you were to name the Detroit Lions' most underrated or underappreciated player is, whichever label you prefer, quarterback Jared Goff is the default answer and you wouldn't be wrong. But it's also fair to say he isn't the only Lions' player who falls below the radar for a lot of people, even with the team's success last season.

When Pro Football Focus made their list of the top-25 players in the NFL under the age of 25 entering the 2024 season, five Lions made the list (only one other team had more than two). But there was at least one notable snub, and PFF's own date showed it.

Brian Branch, operating as the Lions' slot corner during his rookie season last year, was PFF's 14th-ranked cornerback with a 78.9 overall grade. His 83.9 run defense grade was sixth-best at the position, and his 77.7 coverage grade was in the top 25. Being a slot corner/safety probably hurt him to make the "top-25 under 25" compared to others who play more glamorous positions.

Pro Football Focus analyst practically retcons Brian Branch young players' snub

Working for The 33rd Team on a series looking the most under appreciated players on each team, sorted by division, PFF's Steve Palazollo and Sam Monson took a run at the NFC North.

Monson named Branch as the most underappreciated player for the Lions. The segment on Branch runs from about the 33-second mark through around the 1:03 mark of the video.

"I think Brian Branch is an absolutely underappreciated player. Safety, slot corner, do-it-all at Alabama in college. I think if he ran a faster 40 time, we would be talking about this guy as a top-10 prospect, top-10 player, coming into the NFL. Hit the ground running, the Lions said 'you are our slot corner', he goes out there and absolutely dominates in Year 1, exactly the way he did in college. This guy is a superstar player, and doesn't get the recognition he should for being exactly that."

If they didn't know based on what he did at a high profile school like Alabama, Lions' opponents and the rest of the league got a close-up look at how good Branch is during his rookie season. That he fell to the second round like he did, based on things that have nothing to do with playing football, was another piece of good recent draft fortune for the Lions.


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